Parent Your Best on the Sidelines

As a parent, you love your kid, and you want nothing more than to see them succeed. Sometimes your love and good intentions are harming your child, the coach, the game officials, and other players on the field. As parents, you have one critical role once the game has started, clap for the players on the field. 

As Reed Maltbie points out in his article, It’s Time to End the Sideline Sportsanity“overzealous cheering can easily lead to coaching.” Often, parents don’t realize they’re coaching from the sidelines. Action words such as gorunget the ball, and pass is all forms of coaching. Remember, your child has a coach. They want to see your child succeed as well and will work with them in games and practice to bring the best out of your child.

If you still find it hard to avoid coaching from the sideline, Maltbie has several excellent recommendations.

  • Wear headphones – I coached a player whose dad always wore headphones. He said he was a once high level athlete and a former coach, so the urge to intervene was off the charts. He wore headphones to keep from “sideline coaching”. They also served a second purpose, he said, “I don’t have to listen to all the other parents”.
  • Be the team photographer/videographer – You’ll be too busy finding the perfect shot of everyone’s kid to be yelling. You may even gain an appreciation for all the players on the team. If you film a game and hear your screams on the playback, you will probably never yell again.
  • Carry lollipops – Sounds funny, but effective. If you feel the urge to speak your mind, fill that gaping void with something to keep words from coming out of it. I’ve heard of sports teams assigning ‘lollipop parents’ whose jobs are to hand out lollipops to those who yell.
  • Sit in the corner – literally. The same dad who listened to music would also sit away from everyone in the corner of the field. He could watch the game but not get caught up by the emotions on the field and the even more intense emotions on the sidelines. I am convinced there is a direct correlation between how close you sit to the action and how much you need to intervene during games.
  • Have a yell jar – Pass a jar at games. When you yell, you pay. Use the money to buy all the kids ice cream. You could alter the amounts based on the infraction: yelling instructions is a buck, yelling at the coach is two bucks, berating the ref is a 5 spot, screaming at the kids is a sawbuck.
  • Offer to be the “keeper of the culture”.  My wife played this role very well. She once dealt with a pair of new parents to our club. They were Sniper Parents yelling shoot at every touch of the ball and when the child would mess up, they would bellow “What were you thinking”. She finally marched up to them and asked them if they liked having people yell at them. She said “we don’t yell at 11 year-olds at our club. This is not our culture”. That became a theme for us- keep the culture. We actually had players come to tryouts to join the club that policed its sidelines. If you have strong club values – offer to guard them.